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Friedrich Schiller

 

 


Friedrich Schiller

1759 - 1805

 

Schiller was born on November 10, 1759 in Marbach, Württemberg as the only son, besides five sisters, of military doctor Johann Kaspar Schiller (1733–96), and Elisabeth Dorothea Kodweiß (1732–1802). On 22 February 1790, he married Charlotte von Lengefeld (1766–1826). Two sons (Karl and Ernst) and two daughters (Luise and Emilie) were born between 1793 and 1804. The last living descendent of Schiller was a grandchild of Emilie, Baron Alexander von Gleichen-Rußwurm, who died at Baden-Baden, Germany in 1947.

His father was away in the Seven Years' War when Friedrich was born. He was named after Frederick II of Prussia, the king of the country his father was fighting for, Prussia, but he was called Fritz by nearly everyone. Kaspar Schiller was rarely home at the time, which was hard on his wife, but he did manage to visit the family once in a while and his wife and children also visited him occasionally wherever he happened to be stationed. When the war ended in 1763, Schiller's father became a recruiting officer and was stationed in Schwäbisch Gmünd. The family moved with him, of course, but since the cost of living-- especially the rent--soon turned out to be too high, the family moved to nearby Lorch.

Although the family was happy in Lorch, Schiller's father found his work unsatisfying. He did, however, take young Friedrich with him occasionally. In Lorch Schiller received his primary education, but because the schoolmaster was lazy, the quality of the lessons was fairly bad and Friedrich regularly cut class with his older sister. Because his parents wanted Schiller to become a pastor himself, they had the pastor of the village instruct the boy in Latin and Greek. The man was a good teacher, which led Schiller to name the cleric in Die Räuber after Pastor Moser. Schiller was excited by the idea of becoming a cleric and often put on black robes and pretended to preach.

 

In 1766, the family left Lorch for the Duke of Wuerttemberg's principal residence, Ludwigsburg. Schiller's father had not been paid for three years and the family had been living on their savings, but could no longer afford to do so. So Kaspar Schiller had himself assigned to the garrison in Ludwigsburg. The move was not easy for Friedrich, since Lorch had been a warm and comforting home throughout his childhood.

 

He came to the attention of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg. He entered the Karlsschule Stuttgart (an elite military academy founded by the Duke), in 1773, where he eventually studied medicine. During most of his short life, he suffered from illnesses that he tried to cure himself.

 

While at the Karlsschule, Schiller read Rousseau and Goethe and discussed Classical ideals with his classmates. At school, he wrote his first play, Die Räuber (The Robbers), which dramatizes the conflict between two aristocratic brothers: the elder, Karl Moor, leads a group of rebellious students into the Bohemian forest where they become Robin Hood-like bandits, while Franz Moor, the younger brother, schemes to inherit his father's considerable estate. The play's critique of social corruption and its affirmation of proto-revolutionary republican ideals astounded its original audience, and made Schiller an overnight sensation. Later, Schiller would be made an honorary member of the French Republic because of this play.

 

In 1780, he obtained a post as regimental doctor in Stuttgart, a job he disliked.

Following the remarkable performance of Die Räuber in Mannheim, in 1781, he was arrested and forbidden by Karl Eugen himself from publishing any further works. He fled Stuttgart in 1783, coming via Leipzig and Dresden to Weimar, in 1787. In 1789, he was appointed professor of History and Philosophy in Jena, where he wrote only historical works. He returned to Weimar in 1799, where Goethe convinced him to return to playwriting. He and Goethe founded the Weimar Theater which became the leading theater in Germany, leading to a dramatic renaissance in Germany. He remained in Weimar, Saxe-Weimar until his death at 45 from tuberculosis.

 

The coffin containing Schiller's skeleton is in the Weimarer Fürstengruft (Weimar's Ducal Vault), the burial place of Houses of Grand Dukes (großherzoglichen Hauses) of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in the Historical Cemetery of Weimar. On 3 May 2008 it was announced that the DNA tests have shown that the skull of this skeleton is not Schiller's. The similarity between this skull and the extant death-mask as well as portraits of Schiller had led many experts to believe that the skull was Schiller's.

 

In September 2008, Schiller was voted by the audience of the TV channel Arte as the second most important playwright in Europe after William Shakespeare.

 

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